As children grow into adolescence, their family relationships dim in comparison to their social relationships. A teen starts to find great value in the connections they have with friends, mentors, coaches, teachers, and peers. Socialization is an important facet of adolescence because it is through social relationships that a teen gets to know more and more about themselves. An adolescent slowly develops a sense of self, which forms the foundation for healthy adulthood.
Although many parents recognize the need for socialization in their teen, they may not know that the mental and emotional health of your teen’s friends also matters. Recent research reveals that the mental and emotional health of a teen’s peers can impact a teen’s psychological well being.
Happiness May be Contagious
There are a handful of recent research studies that show just how influential a good mood can be. For instance, one study from the United Kingdom explored whether a teen who has friends with healthy moods is less likely to be depressed. This study also explored whether emotionally healthy friends can help a teen recover from depression. Essentially, the results of the study revealed that having a network of friends with good emotional health cuts a teenager’s probability of developing depression in half over a period of 6 to 12 months. Also, having a group of mentally healthy friends around can help a teen more quickly recover from depression if they are struggling with it.
Positive Friends Can Contribute to Your Teen’s Resilience
Another study, published by the British Psychological Society in June 2015, found that when teens are faced with adversity, especially those in lower socioeconomic circles, friendships can be a tremendous support. The study asked questions of 409 students between the ages of 11 and 19 who resided in low income areas of England. The researchers examined the quality of the students’ friendships in a psychological assessment. In various ways, the assessment measured the students level of resilience when faced with challenges and how they coped with those challenges. Students of both genders found that their closest friendships helped them deal effectively with the problems they faced. The research found that friends helped with finding the positive in problems and with strategizing and planning. The results revealed that friends provided emotional support, which helped students develop skills and resilience so that they could meet the challenges they faced. In short, the research found that friends can help build resilience in teens.
Resilience is a Psychological Strength
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a challenging event or a stressful period of time. Imagine a rubber band that is thin and stretched to its limit. If you let go of that rubber band, it likely won’t return to its original shape. In the same way, a teen who has experienced a high degree of stress and who is stretched out to their limit might also not be able to bounce back fully. However, when a teen has a high degree of resilience, stressful periods in life won’t affect them as much.
When teens are resilient, they tend to:
- say no to drugs
- curb peer pressure
- know when to make the right choices
- avoid risky behavior
- learn to manage stress effectively
- have healthy relationships with adults
- display easy going dispositions
- have emotional awareness
- can access inner resources that help them move easily into adulthood
Here are a few contributing factors to a teen’s resilience:
Build Positive Friendships– As mentioned above, time with friends is incredibly important for teens, and if those friends are mentally and emotionally healthy, they can support the resilience of a teen. Plus, it’s important for parents to remember that time with friends is more than having an online connection. When teens have in-person interactions with others that are fulfilling and engaging, that’s what matters most.
Exercise on a Regular Basis – Regular physical activity can be an important factor in a teen’s psychological health. In fact, mental health among adolescents does not a stand alone; psychological well being is interwoven with physical and emotional health. When teens are getting exercise on a regular basis, they are likely to also stay psychologically fit.
Get Good Sleep – In the same way, a teen who goes to bed and rises at the same time every day will often feel the difference in his or her mental health. Stress usually inhibits a regular sleep schedule; however, having a regular sleep schedule can help build resilience to that stress. Getting at least 9 hours per day is ideal for adolescents, giving them a balanced internal rhythm of rest.
Eat Well – This goes along with exercise and having healthy sleep routine. Eating well includes eating three balanced meals a day, not skipping meals, and having a balanced intake of vegetables, meats, and grains. Eating well also includes drinking enough water throughout the day.
Encourage Your Teen to Have Healthy Friends
If you are concerned about the friends and peers your teen is currently spending time with, you may want to encourage your teen to make new friends who have good mental and emotional health. This can be a difficult process for some teens. However, with some encouragement, they may find that making friends is an easy and enjoyable process. Here are a few ways your teen might meet someone new to spend time with:
Join a club, team, or church group. If teens have an interest in a certain type of book, for example, or in a particular kind of sport, then joining a club with others with the same interest can be a great way to make new friends. A sports team or church group are other great ways to meet new people who enjoy the same activities. The newspaper and online sites may have reveal details about clubs to join.
Make friends with co-workers. Spending time with coworkers is often an easy way to make friends. If a teen wanted to develop a friendship with a coworker, one way to do this is ask to carpool with someone. If carpooling doesn’t work, a teen might find a reason to celebrate and invite friends from work to join in the celebration.
Volunteer at a favorite charity. Just like with working, when a teen volunteers, they have the opportunity to get to know and spend time with coworkers. Also, volunteering immediately puts you in touch with others who care about sobriety too.
Take your teen to an event where you know they will be in good company. If you want your teen to make friends with positive people, be sure to take your teen to events that draw your kind of crowd. You might go to a community event at the Library or a local used book sale.
Support your teen’s positive friendships. If your teen already has friends with good mental and emotional health, you might try to support those friendships by having your teen’s friends over for dinner or a movie. You might also take your teen and a friend out for lunch. Although your teen may not always accept your invitation, your effort communicates that you appreciate your teen’s friend.
Positive Teen Psychology
In a way, the studies mentioned above are a form of positive psychology….for teens. This new field of study is exploring how to tap into and utilize the incredible resources we have within us. Similarly, when teens have positive friendships, a large network of support, and an accepting family, that teen is likely to succeed and easily transition into adulthood. Furthermore, with these positive factors, a teen is also likely to build and access the resilience, confidence, and competence they need for a successful future.